Eschewing a ‘house style’, interior design practice Salvesen Graham instead layers colour, texture, the contemporary and the antique in each of its projects, creating perennially elegant interiors for some of Europe’s most aspirational homes.
Here, co-founder Nicole Salvesen imparts her interiors know-how, shares her advice for fledgling interior designers and opens up about the challenges she’s faced on her career journey thus far.
What, or who, inspired you to embark on your career path?
I’ve always been creative. Growing up I would constantly be redecorating my room, painting the walls and trying all sorts of painterly effects. It was my early career in property which helped refine what I wanted to do and from there I went in to interior design.
How did you end up where you are today?
I studied Anthropology at Durham University which has probably influenced how I think about the way people live in a home. My love for the industry was cemented when I did an internship with Nina Campbell while I was studying at KLC. After leaving there I worked for other renowned interior designers, ending up back at Nina Campbell before setting up Salvesen Graham with Mary in 2013.
Describe an average day in your working life…
Our days are really varied so it is rare that any two days are the same. The day normally starts with a bang, getting my children out of the door. It is then in to the office. We will always have a weekly team meeting so that everyone is aware of what is going on throughout the company. We are often at site meetings with builders and the wide range of talented craftsmen and women we work with or in design meetings with clients. In the office we will be found scheming or managing every last detail of a project. We are always working on a number of projects and they tend to be varied which we love.
What does it take, both professionally and personally, to open your own practice?
I was inspired by my time working for other designers to start my own company. Mary and I had talked about it for a few years prior to setting up Salvesen Graham. It definitely helps that we are friends, as we have that foundation of support and working as a partnership means that we can give our clients two different perspectives. It sounds obvious, but you have to love what you do, not just the design side but also the business development.
What’s your advice to those aspiring to break into the industry?
Experience. There is nothing better than learning on the job. Of course, this can be reinforced by doing a course at a design school to give you more confidence. There are some really great courses available at the Inchbald and KLC. Always be willing to get stuck in wherever you are. Sometimes you learn the most from the menial tasks, for example organising fabric samples, which gives you the opportunity to learn the name of fabrics and where they come from. Remember most interior designers have started from similar positions!
Talk us through some of your key career moments, what you learned from them
and how they’ve impacted your decisions…
I have been really lucky to have worked with some wonderful interior designers on fantastic projects and I’ve learnt something from each of them. I would say that the example of someone like Nina Campbell, who has maintained her position within the industry for years by adapting and remaining relevant is definitely something that we aspire to. For Mary and I it is important to be willing and open to reinventing the way we look at things, especially as no project is ever the same and it is important to adapt to the way the industry is moving.
Who inspires you most?
There are too many to pick one. I feel that there is a real move in the industry towards mutual support, which has a really positive impact on shaping the way we now work.
What are the best and worst parts of your job, and why?
Every project that we start is a fresh challenge which is always exciting. I think both Mary and I sometimes wish that the creative side of a project was longer, however we are lucky to have the product design side of the company too.
And what are you most looking forward to?
We have got some exciting things in the pipeline at the moment, including new projects, redesigning our website and expanding our Salvesen Graham product range, so watch this space!